What a huge round of 16 clash for Arsenal and its fans - facing a German powerhouse in Bayern Munich! The first thing that came to mind was that it was thankfully not Barcelona - again. After having faced the Catalans four times in the last three years, we desperately needed a breath of fresh air and the 22-time Bundesliga champions are certainly that.
Don't get me wrong though, Bayern are considerably stronger than Arsenal, certainly being considered the favourites, and the last time the two sides met - at this same stage in 2004/2005 - the Gunners were dumped out 3-2 on aggregate with a scoreline which didn't fully portray Bayern's dominance. Since that meeting, both sides have reached the Champions League final only to fail where in Bayern's case, it was done twice.
Die Roten notably reached the Champions League final last season only to unluckily lose on penalties to Chelsea in what was quite a one sided affair. Since that fateful night, the German club have strengthened with the already signed Xherdan Shaqiri along with Claudio Pizarro, Mario Mandžukić, Dante and Javi Martinez. In a nutshell, they are very good now. They currently hold a 12 point lead over current champions, Dortmund and boast a goal difference of +37.
However, for some reason I'm still not scared despite Arsenal's shaky start to the season in which they are currently two points behind third placed Chelsea. I am excited - very excited as other Arsenal fans should be as well. While Real Madrid and Manchester United may be the headline tie of the round of 16, I have a hunch it won't live up to the hype and will bare very few goals. As for Arsenal and Bayern Munich, I feel it can potentially be the most exciting or dramatic round of 16 tie - two sides who like to play football positively, attractively and most importantly, the right way.
Both teams are very similar who like to keep possession (with Arsenal and Bayern topping the possession tables averaging 60.3% and 63% possession, respectively, in their leagues via WhoScored) and pass the ball around accurately (with Arsenal and Bayern averaging an 87.1% and 87.6% pass success respectively once again via WhoScored). It should be a cracking, end to end game which won't disappoint with players like Santi Cazorla, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Theo Walcott, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Jack Wilshere standing out.
While the bookies strongly favour Bayern, Arsenal have every chance of surprising the Germans - especially in Europe where the form book is thrown out of the window and against a notably similar side. Lukas Podolski will have a point to prove against his former employers while along with him, Per Mertesacker knows the majority of the Bayern team really well. Personally, I cannot wait for this match as I hope my prediction of a semi-final finish for Arsenal holds strong this season.
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